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Pentagon Chief: US 'Not Winning' in Afghanistan

By Carla Babb June 13, 2017

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis told lawmakers Tuesday that the United States is not gaining in the fight to stabilize Afghanistan and vowed to present a strategy to Congress "by mid-July."

"We are not winning in Afghanistan right now, and we will correct this as soon possible," Mattis told members of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mattis acknowledged that the Trump administration was currently in a "strategy-free time" concerning Afghanistan, where American troops have fought for 16 years.

The defense secretary called on Congress to provide the Department of Defense with a budget, "not a continuing resolution," that is "passed on time," in order to push the U.S. military through readiness shortfalls while maintaining a support role in two wars.

Republican Senator John McCain, the chair of the committee, agreed that Congress needs to pass a budget but said lawmakers also needed to see an Afghanistan plan from the Pentagon on how to move forward.

"It makes it hard for us to support you when we don't have a strategy," McCain said.

The Arizona senator noted the last administration's plan in Afghanistan was simply "don't lose," which McCain said has not worked.

'Change in approach'

Secretary Mattis equated "winning" in Afghanistan with the Afghan government's ability to handle the enemy's level of violence, which he said will require a "residual force" of U.S. and allied forces to train Afghan troops and maintain high-end capabilities.

"It's going to take a change in approach," Mattis said.

But he said the United States cannot quit on Afghanistan because problems that threaten the U.S. and its economy arise out of "ungoverned spaces."

On Saturday, a uniformed member of the Afghan Special Forces turned his gun on U.S. military personnel, killing three American soldiers and wounding one other.

The U.S. Defense Department said 25-year-old Sgt. Eric M. Houck, 29-year-old Sgt. William M. Bays and 22-year-old Corporal Dillon C. Baldridge of the Army's 101st Airborne Division were killed during the attack in the eastern Afghan province of Nangarhar.

Senator McCain highlighted the attack on Tuesday. He said that Congress and the Department of Defense should not ask the families of service members to "sacrifice any further" without an Afghanistan strategy in place.

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